Master’s in Public Administration Degrees & Schools Guide

Master's Degree in Public Administration Career Options & Salary

Why Earn a Master’s in Public Administration?

As with most management positions, the educational requirements are only increasing. Earning a master’s is a requirement for many employers looking to fill management positions. While you may earn an entry-level position with an associate or bachelor’s degree, your best bet to earn the top management positions in the industry is to gain your master’s degree right away. With this, you can step right into a management position, start gaining experience, and think about earning graduate certificates to add to your educational portfolio and keep you up-to-date on emerging technologies.

Business Degrees & Career Paths


  • Those with a master’s degree earn higher salaries than those with lower level degrees
  • With a master’s you can earn certifications to expand your job options
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who graduate with a master’s degree could earn around 68% more than those with an associate’s degree and 18% more than those with a bachelor’s
  • There are dual-degree programs in Protection Management and Public Policy specializing in Emergency Management and more that are available to qualified students seeking a Master’s in Public Administration.
  • Earning your master’s can be used as a stepping stone to continue your education and obtain a PhD in Public Administration
  • You will get a job faster than someone with a bachelor’s or associate’s degree
  • Many employers require you to have a master’s for employment
  • You will gain some experience, which most employers require
  • Your job will likely be safe from future automation
  • These degrees are not as common as MBAs; therefore, jobs for graduates of these programs are not as contested as those who graduate with an MBA.


  • It takes two years more to earn a master’s than a bachelor’s and even longer if you study part-time online
  • Investment return might be less than necessary to cover the cost of the degree if you aren’t in a high-paying area
  • There are a lot of prerequisites involved in the enrollment process
  • The starting salary for 2011 master’s graduates in this specialty is relatively low, as the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) puts it at $40,000 per year

Overview of a Public Administration Master's

What Public Administration Master’s Degrees are Available?

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA):
    Generally, the MBA is for those interested in the private sector and modern business. While studying for your MBA, you will learn about finance, marketing, accounting, management, sales, and related areas as well as how to be highly competitive in the business industry.
  • The Master of Public Administration (MPA):
    Similar to the MBA, the MPA in public administration is a professional degree that focuses on issues of governance. Those who wish to pursue a leadership role working in a public bureaucracy should consider earning an MPA, as it will provide you with financial and management skills as well as law, sociology, and public policy.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements will, of course, vary between colleges and universities, as each has their own way of doing things. However, with most institutions there are numerous requirements that you must fulfill in order to enroll in a master’s degree program. To be eligible for an MPA program, students must demonstrate a capacity for achievement through past professional or academic work, hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, and submit the following:

  • A completed application
  • Official transcripts from all attended colleges and/or universities
  • A current resume or curriculum vitae
  • A personal statement that describes educational and career goals
  • Relevant volunteer or work experience
  • Any special circumstances that may affect past or prospective academic performance

How long does it take to earn a Public Administration Master’s?

Depending on work and personal circumstances, most MBA, MPA, and other Master’s degree programs can take anywhere from two to five years to complete, but 2 years is the average for full-time students. If you work and would need to attend online classes part-time, it can take up to five years to earn your master’s in public administration.

There are also fast-track programs available for those anxious to join the workforce as soon as possible.

Potential Careers in Public Administration with a Master’s

  • Executive Director:
    This career in the public administration field is basically the same as a CEO, who is in charge of the entire company, only this position lies within a non-profit organization. These professional leaders are responsible for reporting findings to the board of directors, tracking and directing budget decisions that will increase strategic reach, fundraising, developing and maintaining conduct performance reviews, supervising department heads, analyzing operations, meeting strategic goals, and other duties.
    Median Salary: $77,400
  • Director of Development:
    A career on the development side is for those who would rather stick to fundraising aspects of a non-profit, as a director is the one responsible for fundraising for projects. Other duties involved with this role may include keeping track of the financial condition and business developments of your company, overseeing fundraising by developing and implementing strategic plans to raise funds in a timely manner, researching corporations and foundations, and writing grants.
    Median Salary: $63,600
  • Program Analyst:
    In this position, you will focus on the improvement of a program within an institution. Program Analysts are usually responsible for working with content producers and designers; working with developers to integrate databases; back-end codes using business applications; working with users to identify system requirements; analyzing, designing, planning, writing, and debugging software for websites, complex queries, and database stored procedures; and evaluating programs' effectiveness.
    Median Salary: $65,200
  • City Manager:
    City managers are public administrators who operate city governments with successful business efficiency. To obtain this position you must be chosen by elected officials where you will typically work part-time for either a small town or a large city. Some of the duties you will be responsible for in this role are, advising elected officials while developing ordinances and policies, supervising administrative personnel and department heads, implementing legislation enacted by elected officials, managing and coordinating daily service and departments operations, and preparing, administering and overseeing the annual city budget, and more.
    Median Salary: $88,600
  • Mayor:
    Once you have gained some experience in the public administration industry, which can include holding a position in any of the jobs listed above, you can choose to run for mayor or a position on the city council where you will help run the city and be responsible for managing the city’s government.
    Median Salary: $59,200

Options to Advance

Public administrators' earnings depend on degree levels and job titles. On the analytical side of public administration, positions for operations research analysts are expected to grow 27% over the next decade, which is significantly higher than the national growth average.

Those who hold an MPA and wish to advance their career, can obtain a PhD in public administration, which will open the doors to a wide range of opportunities. Students can select from several public administration areas, depending on their skills and interests. Those interested in math and finance can get a job as a budget analyst, where those interested in healthcare can get a job as a health services manager.

Best Masters Public Administration (MPA) Programs

  • Texas A & M University - Bush School of Government and Public Service
    College Station, TX

    Founded in 1997 under the George Bush philosophy “public service is a noble calling”, the Bush School of Government and Public Service has continued to reflect this notion in research, student experience, and curriculum and is now one of the leading international affairs public graduate institutions.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Public Service and Administration
    • Master of International Affairs
  • Rutgers University - School of Public Affairs and Administration
    Newark, NJ

    The School of Public Affairs and Administration in Rutgers University, is ranked in the top 30 in 6 categories that include administration/public management and public analysis in the 2017 Best Graduate Schools Report from the U.S. News. They offer programs from bachelor’s to PhD, that include dual degrees such as the MPA and law.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Public Administration
    • Executive Master of Public Administration
  • University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
    Chapel Hill, NC

    At the University of North Carolina, the School of Government offers an MPA program where students can choose to focus on one of the following areas: Public Health, Local Government, Non-profit Management, Economic and Community Development, or International Relations.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Public Administration Degree
    • Master’s in Environmental Engineering
  • University of Illinois - Chicago
    Chicago, IL

    The College of Public Affairs and Urban Planning is home to the Department of Public Administration. The department offers an MPA program accredited through 2021 by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). They also have an accelerated MPA Program available, where classes are scheduled for full-time students to complete the program in 12 months.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Public Administration Degree
    • Master’s in Environmental Engineering
    • Master of Urban Planning and Policy
    • Master of City Design
  • University of Minnesota
    Minneapolis, MN

    At the University of Minnesota, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs Masters of Public Policy stand-alone program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). Students can choose to earn dual degrees in the following: MPP/MBA (Master of Public Administration), MPP/JD (Juris Doctor), MPP/MPH (Master of Public Health), and MPP/MSW (Master of Social Work).

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Development Practice
    • Master of Human Rights
    • Master of Public Affairs
    • Master of Public Policy
    • Master of Science in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy
    • Master of Urban and Regional Planning

Traditional Schools Offering a MS in Public Administration

  • American University
    Washington, DC

    The American University is a top-ranked institution for public affairs that brings DC to you with the Master of Public Administration and Policy online program, which blends an NASPAA-accredited Master's in Public Administration and nationally recognized Master's in Public Policy degree programs into one highly marketable credential.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master’s in Public Administration
    • Master’s in Public Policy
  • Villanova University
    Villanova, PA

    Villanova’s accredited MPA program is focused on skills and seeks to create intelligent, ethical, and creative leaders in the industry who will make a difference in their community. The curriculum addresses key concepts to achieve this goal, such as public personnel management and organization theory.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master’s in Public Administration
    • MS in Human Resource Development
  • Norwich University
    Northfield, VT

    Norwich University offers degree programs you can complete in just 18 months that are heavily focused on career development while you design your very own capstone project to address your current workplace. In addition, you will also enjoy personalized support, as the class sizes are small with no more than 15 students enrolled in each class, making it easier to get more attention from your teachers who have professional backgrounds in the public administration industry.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master’s in Public Administration
    • Master’s in Business Administration
    • Master’s in Civil Engineering
  • University of Texas
    Arlington, TX

    At the University of Texas, the public administration program is a versatile discipline that may lead to careers in consulting, government, the non-profit sector, or business. To capture this versatility, the online, accredited, public administration master's degree offers classes that span from Non-Profit and Public Human Resources Law and Intergovernmental Relations to Foundations of Urban Analysis and Research.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master’s in Public Administration
    • Master’s in Business Administration
    • M.Ed. in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies
  • Arkansas State University
    Jonesboro, AR

    Arkansas State's public administration, online, master's degree program emphasizes management skills more strongly than any other degree programs in the university. One of the main goals of the program is to assist students in obtaining director and executive level positions within their current employment industry.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MPA Public Management
    • MPA Non-Profit Management
    • M.S. in Strategic Communications
    • Master of Engineering Management